While there may be many books out there on parenting, there really isn’t any definitive guide because every baby and child is unique and all parents come with our own unique baggage from childhood and genetics. Becoming a parent is wonderful for stirring up all of those old memories and connections from our own upbringing for us to deal with. For many, childhood can be a time of betrayal and invalidation where our parents were potentially disconnected from their inner worlds of thoughts, feelings, and emotions. As a result, security and trust wasn’t fostered and this bled into our intimate relationships and we swore that it would be different with our kids. Low and behold, life increasingly becomes stressful and hectic, and it’s all too easy to find ourselves in the past patterns that we had with our own parents where we aren’t attuned with our own children. With this in mind, it is becoming increasingly important for us to learn how to attune to our own thoughts, feelings, and emotions, so we can have the ability to do that with our children.
One of the most important gifts a parent can give a child is their presence, validation, and security. When we’re present with our children it lays the path for attunement and resonance. Attunement is when the parent is aware and present to the child’s inner world of thoughts, feelings, and emotions. When attuned, a state of resonance occurs where the child “feels felt”. Think about anytime you felt completely understood. It breeds a sense of safety and when a person feels safe they cultivate the ability to trust.
Psychiatrist Daniel Siegel, MD has a great acronym for this:
PART (Presence, Attunement, Resonance, Trust)
He notes that this attunement and resonance builds regulatory circuits in the brain that supports the child’s ability to foster empathic relationships and be resilient in the future.
This is an invaluable gift to give a child.
Easy enough, right?
Um…no. It can enormously challenging at times to be a parent. Author and professional blog writer, Therese Borchard often writes about her struggles being a mom and suffering with depression. As a parent, we are now responsible for a whole host of new responsibilities, trying to do the best we can while feeling guilty that we’re not doing enough. Mindful parenting informs us to first begin to practice PART within ourselves. Sometimes just taking a moment or two to let the dust settle and tune into how we are feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally can be a wonderful gift in helping to cultivate self-attunement and resonance. Through this process we can begin to come down from the chaos in our minds and trust ourselves.
When practicing with yourself, you can begin to do this with your children. If you find that all day you have been frantic running around and not paying attention to your children, rather than riddling yourself with guilt, see if you can recognize that you are now present, let that be, and invite yourself to be present to your child now. If the little one is crying because he skinned his knee, notice your urge to make a happy face or give him a lollipop to ease his woes. See if you can instead validate his feelings, letting him know that his response is appropriate and allow it to come and go. This teaches the child that it’s ok to feel hurt and it’s ok to cry when you get hurt. This earns the child a sense of security within him or herself. This could be more difficult if you have many children and the crying becomes contagious. So when the voices arise that you’re not fit to be a parent, see if you can be aware of that trap, become present and remind yourself that you’re good enough.
We will never be the perfect parents so let go of the burden of that fantasy. However, we can be good enough as the well-known Psychologist Donald Winnicott pointed out. Mindful Parenting is the process of being aware of how you were parented affects your style of parenting and also to make it a practice to be present and attuned to your child’s inner world. If you stray from this, that is perfectly fine, just let it be, and invite yourself now to be with your child.
As soon as you notice yourself drifting, you are present and can shift to tuning into to your child’s inner world. It is that close. Be compassionate to yourself knowing this is a practice.
As always, please share your stories, thoughts, and questions. Your interaction here provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.